Walt Mossberg, the WSJ's tech columnist, is rather fond of a new device called Ooma, a $400 voice-over-Internet machine that liberates you from monthly phone bills. The plan is simple: Buy one Ooma, plug it into your Internet line, attach a standard home phone, "and you get free, unlimited domestic calls, local or long distance, as long as you keep your Ooma," Mossberg writes.
If you decide to keep your traditional phone service -- switch to the lowest-rate plan they have -- Ooma lets you use your existing number; it also places 911 calls through the standard land line. You can add additional Ooma-enabled phones in your house with a $39 device called Ooma Scout. And if your Internet service goes down, calls are rerouted through your standard line, but Ooma picks up the tab. You've got to pay to call internationally, but the price is comparable to that of other Internet-phone services -- i.e., very cheap.
Ooma goes on sale in September, but if you're lucky and well-connected, you might be able to get one sooner, Mossberg says.
"To build its network, Ooma will be seeding the country with 1,500 boxes over the summer," he writes. "These will be provided free of charge. But the only way to get one, if you aren't on the initial list, is to know somebody who has one. Each recipient gets three tokens -- redeemable for a free Ooma -- to give to others."